Saturday, 24 August 2013

MSF-backed hospitals treated Syria 'chemical victims'

Mourners next to bodies of alleged chemical attack victims in Ghouta, Syria on Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Medecins Sans Frontieres says hospitals it supports in Syria treated about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms", of whom 355 have died.

It said the patients had arrived in three hospitals in the Damascus governorate on 21 August - when opposition activists say chemical attacks were launched against rebels.

But MSF says it cannot "scientifically confirm" the use of chemical weapons.

Both sides in the conflict accuse each other of using chemical weapons.
MSF says staff at the hospitals described a large number of patients arriving in the space of less than three hours with symptoms including convulsions, extreme salivation, contracted pupils and sight and respiratory problems. 

The charity said many were treated with atropine, a drug administered to those with "neurotoxic symptoms".
"MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack," said MSF Director of Operations Bart Janssens. 

"However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events, characterised by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers, strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. 

"This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons."

MSF's disclosure came hours after the UN disarmament chief Angela Kane arrived in Damascus to press the Syrian government to allow access to the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack.

France has joined the UK in accusing Bashar al-Assad's forces of carrying out the attack in the capital's eastern suburbs on Wednesday.

US President Obama has said he is weighing his options and described it as a "big event of grave concern".

Nelson Mandela showing 'great resilience' in hospital

A banner of Nelson Mandela hangs outside his hospital in Pretoria, 19 July South Africa's ailing former leader, Nelson Mandela, is said to be showing great resilience though his condition becomes unstable at times.

The state of the 95-year-old is "still critical but stable", according to a statement from the South African president's office.

He remains in hospital in Pretoria two-and-a-half months after being admitted with a recurring lung infection.

The statement largely squares with comments from members of his family.
"Critical but stable" is the phrase used by the government for weeks now, the BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports from Johannesburg.

However, Saturday's statement does provide some fresh insight into the precariousness of the health of the global icon and the reserves he still appears able to call upon, our correspondent adds. 

The statement said doctors were still working hard to bring about a turnaround in his health and, as a result of medical interventions, his condition tended to stabilise.

President Jacob Zuma, who is travelling to Malaysia on an official visit, urged the country to continue praying for Mr Mandela and to keep him in their thoughts at all times.

Mr Mandela, who stepped down as the country's first black president in 1999, entered hospital on 8 June.
The anti-apartheid activist's lung infection is believed to date back to the period of nearly three decades he spent in prison, for his activities in the African National Congress.

People from South Africa and around the world have sent him their best wishes, and flowers and other tributes have collected outside Pretoria's Medi Clinic Heart Hospital.

UN's Angela Kane in Syria urges chemical weapons probe

UN disarmament chief Angela Kane has arrived in Damascus to push the Syrian government for access to the alleged site of a chemical weapons attack.

It comes as France joined the UK in accusing Bashar al-Assad's forces of carrying out the attack in the capital's eastern suburbs on Wednesday.

US President Obama has said he is weighing his options amid claims that hundreds of civilians were killed.

State media on Saturday said chemical agents were found in rebel-held areas.

Syrian television said soldiers had "suffocated" as they tried to enter Jobar - one of the towns in the Ghouta district around Damascus reportedly attacked on Wednesday. 

Russia, Syria's main ally, said earlier there was evidence rebels were behind Wednesday's attack.
Damascus has called the allegations "illogical and fabricated".

'Grave concern'
Syria's opposition said hundreds of people died in a night-time government assault in Ghouta on Wednesday.
Unverified footage shows civilians - many of them children - dead or suffering from what appeared to be horrific symptoms consistent with a chemical attack. 

The allegations have caused international outrage.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday that "all the information at our disposal converge to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the [regime of Bashar al-Assad] is responsible".

A day earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he believed "this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime" and it was "not something that a humane or civilised world can ignore".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was determined to "conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation" into the events.

He has sent Angela Kane to press the Syrian authorities to allow a team of 20 experts on chemical weapons - already in Damascus - to investigate the claims.

The US, meanwhile, is facing rising pressure to intervene.

President Obama is meeting his national security team on Saturday to discuss possible next steps in Syria.
US defence officials have said navy commanders are keeping a fourth warship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The officials stressed that the US Navy had received no orders to prepare for military action.
Mr Obama told CNN that Wednesday's attack was a "big event of grave concern", but added that the US was still seeking confirmation that chemical weapons had been used and warned against a knee-jerk reaction.

Last year, he said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a "red line" and force a tough US response.

Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow had urged President Assad to co-operate with UN inspectors, but questioned the opposition's willingness to provide "secure, safe access of the [UN] mission to the location of the incident".

It also said there was evidence that "this criminal act was clearly provocative", referring to unsubstantiated internet reports that allegations were being made hours before the attack was supposed to have happened.
The UN says more than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began more than two years ago.

Jennifer Fitzgerald settles $105,000 Chicago parking fine

The air traffic control tower is seen behind the departures level of terminal 2 at Chicago's O'Hare airport on 13 August 2013A Chicago woman has settled $105,000 (£67,540) in parking fines amassed after her car was abandoned at an airport in 2009, local media report.

Jennifer Fitzgerald's ex-boyfriend left the car at O'Hare airport's employee car park. She settled with the city out of court for $4,500.

The vehicle accumulated 678 tickets before it was finally towed last year.

Fitzgerald insisted she had been unable to retrieve the vehicle from the employee car park
Ms Fitzgerald said she had been unable to gain access to the car park, according to court records.
She continued to receive tickets even after the state of Illinois revoked the car's licence plates.

Ms Fitzgerald sued the city to clear the tickets and penalties.
Her lawyer, Robin Omahana, told DNAinfo Chicago the city had disregarded its own towing rules.

"They had a little egg on their face with writing so many tickets on one car," Mr Omahana said.

City law department spokesman Roderick Drew told the Chicago Tribune that the city had tried to settle with Ms Fitzgerald before the case went to court but she declined.
Under the terms of the settlement, her ex-boyfriend Brandon Preveau will reimburse her $1,600, with Ms Fitzgerald paying the rest on a monthly plan.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

All Progressives Congress Leaders Meeting

L-R; National Chairman Interim, All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Bisi Akande;APC Governorship Aspirant in Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige; Deputy National Chairman Interim South South, Senator Ani Okonkwo; and Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha
All Progressives Congress Leaders Meeting

Panel - Warn Keshi on bonus row

A probe panel on the Super Eagles bonus row has fingered coach Stephen Keshi as part of the embarrassment and said he should be warned.

The African champions almost failed to turn up for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil in June after the players insisted they be paid more than what the broke Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) planned to pay them for two World Cup qualifiers in Kenya and Namibia.

“Keshi was part of the problem as regards the bonus saga in Namibia. He stood to lose money if the bonus was slashed as proposed by the NFF and so he needs to be warned about his role in that ugly episode,” a top official told

The panel will submit several ground-breaking recommendations to the country’s sports minister in Abuja Thursday afternoon. reports that among these recommendations are no more cash payments for match bonuses to the national teams as has been the case. Players and officials will be paid through their banks.

Draw bonuses should be abolished. Players will only be paid bonuses for winning a game, while participation fees will be paid for all national team engagements.

Coaches will negotiate their bonuses and will be paid a lump sum as qualification bonuses henceforth and not match bonuses. This is to ensure that the coaches are more professional in the discharge of their duties and have set targets to meet.

Arewa determined to restore peace in Kaduna – Chairman

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on Thursday renewed its resolve to restore sustainable peace in the southern part of Kaduna State.

The Chairman of the forum, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, made the pledge while on advocacy visit to traditional rulers in the area.

Mohammed said the forum was determined to ensure peaceful co-existence in Southern Kaduna and the state at large.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that he spoke at the palaces of the Agwam Bajju, Agwam Tyap and the Kpop Ham in Zango Kataf and Jaba local government areas.

The chairman reminded them that as custodians of culture and traditions, the rulers played an important role as part of the machinery for ensuring communal harmony and peaceful co-existence.

“This is one of the reasons why ACF had deemed it absolutely necessary to undertake this courtesy call on our traditional institutions in Southern Kaduna senatorial district of Kaduna state,’’ he said.

He further explained that the visit would avail ACF the opportunity to pave way for future dialogue and exchange of ideas on sensitive issues affecting the northern states.

“ACF always enjoins northerners to recognise the need for action to find effective ways of harnessing human and natural resources for the development and benefit of our people,’’ he added.

Mohammed regretted that the north had witnessed more than its fair share of unpleasant ethnic and religious violence, and appealed to the royal fathers and the different communities to return to the “old ways.”

“Nowhere in the world has violence ever been found to result in peace and progress, as such our northern communities cannot be an exception,’’ he stressed.